Lack of immunization records sees 400 suspended

Just over 400 elementary school students in Waterloo Region were suspended from school June 9 for having incomplete immunization records.

Region of Waterloo Public Health sent out 3,000 letters in April, notifying students and their families that the agency did not have up-to-date immunization records for the pupils. Students with incomplete immunization records may face suspension for up to 20 days.

Lesley Rintche, manager of immunization programs, said she expected they would have records for 200 or 300 of the suspended students by the end of the day June 9.

There are about 45,000 elementary school students in Waterloo Region.

“Out of that many elementary students, only 400 are suspended, so that’s good. It’s not good that children are suspended, but the numbers are good,” Rintche said. “For the vast majority, these students just haven’t forwarded their information to public health.”

The agency started enforcing the Immunization of School Pupils Act in 1994 on a staggered basis, working its way up to demanding records for all students from Grade 2 to Grade 12. The number of students suspended has plateaued in the past two years, she said.

The legislation doesn’t require that all children get vaccinated, but they must provide proof of immunization or a medical or legal exemption. Family physicians aren’t obligated to forward the information to the public health department, so the responsibility falls on parents.

Rintche said most of the families affected are new to the school system or have recently moved to Waterloo Region.

ROWPH requires the information so it can track which students have and have not been vaccinated.

“In the event of an outbreak of a vaccine-preventable disease, and if it’s in the school community, we would know which children would be at risk or not.”

If there was a measles outbreak at a school, for example, children who had not been vaccinated would be pulled from class and sent home until the outbreak was over.

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